Where's the star?
Hemsky admits it's time for him to become a leader ... and a far better player
Ales Hemsky has decided he wants to be a certified star. He wants to go for greatness.
The 23-year-old talent has decided he wants to be a recognized leader and wants to be viewed as a winner at the same time.
"Everybody has been saying 'You're going to be a star.' I want to get to the point where they are saying 'You are a star," Hemsky said in a revealing one-on-one interview yesterday.
"I'm in the league for five years now.
"I want people to say that all the time now.
"That's the challenge I have.
"I've learned that the most important thing is that you play good as a team. I'll be happy with 60 points if we get to the Stanley Cup final again.
"To score 120 points and don't make the playoffs is useless.
"You go home and say 'I scored 100 points' and people say 'You didn't make the playoffs.'
"I want to be a leader on the team and a leader in the game.
"I think I'm reaching the point of my career now where I have to be a leader a little bit.
"I know I have to step up."
Hemsky says as much as this is a game where you play for the crest on the front of your sweater before the one on your back, they both exist.
"You're still playing for your name."
If Edmonton is to do well, Hemsky has to play a big part like he did down the stretch and in the playoffs last year.
Last year he took one large leap toward his future as a certified star.
Now he says he's determined to get there and stay there.
Coach Craig MacTavish says it's his job to help make that happen.
"We need him to be at the all-star game every year from now on," is how he put it yesterday.
MacTavish, who received results early by putting the 23-year-old with Petr Sykora, finally declared adding Petr Nedved to create a Czech-mates line a failed experiment.
Saturday night he put Hemsky back on a line with Ryan Smyth and Shawn Horcoff.
In the media scrum after the line had scored all four goals in a 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings with Hemsky scoring a goal and adding three assists, Mac made a very curious statement.
He said he put the line back together for one reason more than any other.
"I need to give Hemmer an opportunity to be our best player."
Hemsky's eight goals and 28 assists for 36 points in 41 games don't suggest he's making another large leap towards his future.
But they do suggest he's at least maintaining the one he made last year when he scored 19 goals, and added 58 assists in a 77 point season.
But MacTavish said Hemsky isn't treading water with his new six-year contract in his hockey pants.
"I'm seeing progress," he said.
"I'm seeing maturity as a player on the ice.
"He's making better decisions on both sides of the puck."
Hemsky is maturing off the ice as well.
He's no longer trying to be invisible in the dressing room.
Just the other day he shocked some members of the media with the following post-game quote:
"We suck. We stink. We look like we don't know how to play hockey. And you can start with me."
Who knows if that response really played a part in MacTavish pulling the plug on the line with his team-mates from the Czech Republic.
But clearly he was happy to be back with Smyth and Horcoff.
"We know what to expect with each other. We played really well together last year," Hemsky said yesterday of being back with Smyth and Horcoff.
It was on that line he jumped his point total from 30 in 2002-03 to 34 in 2004-05 to 77 last year.
Yesterday after practice MacTavish said there are two ways you could look at his move to put Hemsky back with Smyth and Horcoff.
"It was either an act of brilliance or an act of buffoonery to have kept them apart."
MacTavish said when you have a special talent like Hemsky, you need to get the most out of it.
"We need to put him in situations to allow him to make the most of his skill level.
"His skill level is as good as there is in the game."
Stuck in the middle ideal for Sykora
Slumping Czech back at centre, where he enjoyed early-season success
Joanne Ireland, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Tuesday, January 30, 2007
EDMONTON - Petr Sykora made another trip to the stick rack to grab the tools of his trade. More work was required he decided -- tip-top practice goal or not.
"I still feel like I'm getting involved in the offence, but nothing is going in right now. Nothing. Nothing at all," said Sykora, who has gone six games without a goal.
Through the last 16 games with the Edmonton Oilers, Sykora had two goals and five assists, a fraction of the 39 points he has registered through 50 games. In the season's early going, Sykora was a head-turner. In his first 14 games with the Oilers, he racked up nine goals and nine assists. Even more impressive was the fact that three of those nine goals were game-winners.
Sykora's early success occurred as he re-adjusted to playing centre again -- a position he hadn't played since he was with the New Jersey Devils from 1995-2002. It also happened with Ales Hemsky playing on his right side.
Then Hemsky got hurt and Sykora was moved to the wing. By the time the Oilers were in the midst of getting thumped 5-1 by San Jose last Friday, thoughts of breaking up the Czechmates, including veteran Petr Nedved, had already started to form.
The next game out, Hemsky was moved up to play with Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Smyth and Sykora was shifted back to the middle to play between Joffrey Lupul and Toby Petersen.
The trio had a couple of scoring chances, Sykora had two shots on net, and the game ended with the hope that a turnaround is imminent.
"I like Petr back at centre. He can track the puck, he gets the puck on the fly," coach Craig MacTavish said. "He's certainly more effective there for us than he has been on the wing.
"He made some plays, he was handling the puck, he found some open ice. That looked like it worked. We'll see how they do in the Columbus game." Sykora, too, felt his game was better than it has been of late but he knows there's more work to be done, starting with Wednesday's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Rexall Place.
He also knows that given the way Hemsky shone with Horcoff and Smyth in Saturday's 4-3 victory that that line is going to stay intact for now. So good was the trio, which scored all four of the goals, that they were out for virtually every other shift in the third period.
MacTavish said on Tuesday that he has no reservations now about riding a hot line and that if he has only two effective lines in a game, he will roll those two lines for stretches.
"When things aren't going well, you always go to the things that worked well before and these guys worked well before. They're playing great right now," said Sykora, who is one of Hemsky's biggest boosters. "They had a great game the other night.
"As for me, I do like it better in the middle. I have the puck a lot more when I play centre so you do get involved more in the plays. We'll see how it goes.
"I felt with Toby and Lups, we created a couple of chances but nothing went in."